Ask Walter Plosila what he has accomplished in the business incubation industry, and he won't give you a straight answer. "I probably have the award for the most roles played in the national incubator movement," he jokes. Others would agree.
Plosila was an early supporter and spokesman of the incubation industry. He saw the role of incubators in state economic development strategy before just about anyone else at the state level. As deputy secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Commerce, Plosila was architect of the one of the country's most comprehensive technology and manufacturing agendas. It included the Ben Franklin Partnership Programs, the first state-supported technology development program, which included incubators as a key component. To this day, Pennsylvania arguably leads the nation in incubator development.
After leaving Pennsylvania, Plosila oversaw the development of the Montgomery County (Md.) High Technology Council and went on to create its information technologies and biotech incubator. He secured support from the county and state for a new permanent facility, including space for information and biotechnology firms. He conducted an assessment of North Carolina's state incubator programs for the North Carolina Technology Development Authority. He has been an advisor to 44 states on technology and economic development issues and assisted many in including incubators as a key component of their entrepreneurship and technology strategies.
Plosila's gravelly voice and dry, self-deprecating humor were familiar to NBIA board and staff. He joined the board in 1988 and served for several years as a respected advisor, speaker and friend. He helped plan the first-ever NBIA conference in Philadelphia in 1987. "I remember that first conference where we expected low attendance and then people started coming out of the woodwork," he fondly recalls. "We didn't have big enough rooms, or enough rooms, or enough food. And Randy [Whaley] and Carlos [Morales] were alternatively smiling or frowning." Plosila served as a panelist, speaker and moderator at several NBIA conferences and workshops and as a member of the Research and Information Committee. In 1992 he was a national finalist and the Washington, D.C., winner and national runner up of the Supporter of Entrepreneurship award given by Inc. magazine for his work in incubators, high technology councils and industry technology consortia.
Plosila later became vice president, public technology management, for Batelle Memorial Institute, where he directed the Environmental Technology Commercialization Center and handled Battelle's public technology efforts with state and local governments, universities and other technology organizations. He retired in 2008, although he still does occasional consulting for Battelle.
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